Lost Ark Distilling Company
Summary: Honoring the 140 colonists who set sail from England to be the first to lay claim to Maryland in 1633, Lost Ark Distilling Company is on their own journey as the first distillery in Columbia, Maryland. The brave colonists had several challenges to overcome on their three month voyage. Distillery founders, Brad Blackwell and Andy Debenham also had challenges in forming an artisan distillery in Howard County. They opened the tasting room at the beginning of December 2016.
The founding colonists of Maryland had several challenges crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the late autumn of 1633. A few days after beginning the voyage, the two ships the Ark and the smaller Dove were separated in a storm. It took two months before the ships were reunited. Making several stops along the way, the Ark and Dove arrived at what is now known as St. Clement’s Island. Andy Debenham and Brad Blackwell the founders of Lost Ark Distilling Company also had challenges. They signed a lease for a location in Laurel. However the deal did not go through and the founders looked for another port for their journey. It took a couple years before signing a lease for the Columbia site in July 2016.
Brad and Andy (pictured left) wanted to recognize Maryland’s history and named the distillery Lost Ark. The ship, the Ark returned to England shortly after it arrived in the colony. Andy’s and Brad’s honoring Maryland goes beyond the name of the distillery. They use mostly Maryland produced products and Maryland-based companies to provide the raw materials to craft their portfolio of distilled spirits.
Both founders had been home brewers for years. Then in 2014 they formed the Lost Ark company. They spent time in Idaho learning every aspect of the distilling process. Also spending time visiting distilleries and intensive reading about distilling, their business plan evolved. Their first attempt of leasing a building to house the distillery stalled and their journey continued in 2016 with a building site in Columbia. It took three months to set up the space.
After arriving in the tasting room, we met Andy who took us on a tour of the production area. The tasting room is separated from the production area. We walked into the large warehouse area and noticed a closed area to the side. This area eventually will become a space for hosting events. A large painted drawing of the Ark is on one of the walls. Several tables and chairs are in this space. Each table has a small table game to play. In the production area, there are stainless steel tanks. Nearby the still's copper and stainless pots and columns are seen. The stripping run is done in a pot still while spirits runs are done in the pot and the columns.
An enclosed room has a hammermill for crushing the grains. Corn and wheat are sourced from nearby Dayton. Molasses is sourced from Domino Sugar in Baltimore. At the end of the production area, charred barrels for aging spirits, are stacked two high.
Tasting Room and Spirits
An L-shaped tasting counter is made from angled, gleaming wood that has a warm honey and walnut color. Behind the tasting counter, shelves display some of the products. In the center is a sign for the distillery name and the logo of the Ark. Several visitors can spread out along the tasting counter. The tasting room is opened on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
We tasted two products; both were 80 proof (40% alcohol). The white rum was a clear color. It offered dried fruits and a molasses aroma and taste. In the mouth it was slightly sweet, fruity and smooth. There was a bit of heat on the finish and the rum had a very long aftertaste of dried fruits and molasses. The Terra Maria Spiced Rum was a light brown color with a yellow hue. The aroma and taste were of baking spices; think of the spices used in holiday cookies. This rum also had a long aftertaste featuring molasses, orange and baking spices. On the tasting counter there were small, clear jars of spices including whole nutmeg. Visitors can open the lid and smell the spice.
In the future, other products will become available. Look for different whiskeys. Lost Ark Distilling Company is a very welcoming and laid back distillery for visits from novices to spirits enthusiasts. This is a Maryland company that has made a link to Maryland’s past and to the present by using Maryland farmed products.
Lost Ark Distilling
9570 Berger Road, Suite L
Columbia, Maryland 21046
Article written December 2016
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